It's already one of the bloodiest sagas in the history of modern games development, but the feud between sacked Infinity Ward bosses Jason West and Vince Zampella has been taken to a whole new dimension with the news that the pair have opened a new studio and aligned themselves with Activision's fiercest rival – EA.
The headline news can be seen here, but here's a closer look at the language of the first official press release:
The move positions the Respawn Entertainment leadership team as the owners of the intellectual property they create
It's not hard to see what this refers to. West and Zampella have already expressed their claim to ownership of the Modern Warfare arm of the Call of Duty brand – a claim that Activision's lawyers will be vigorously challenging. When EA moved to partner with Respawn, this is probably the first condition it offered.
It also rules out the possibility of the pair working on the Medal of Honor franchise, a series that would be a natural fit, seeing as MOH was originally their brand. Respawn will work on brand new IP.
Respawn is pleased to also announce that it has awarded Electronic Arts, through the distinguished EA Partners program, exclusive worldwide publishing and distribution rights to future games.
There's a key word in this sentence – ‘awarded'. It could almost say ‘rewarded'. As in, rewarded EA for being Activision's most fierce rival. There's no other partnership that could possibly hurt Activision as much.
Founded in 2010, Respawn Entertainment is an independent videogame development studio based in Encino, California.
This has been looked over a little in the immediate coverage since the news broke. Respawn Entertainment is an independent developer. It has simply struck up a distribution and publishing deal with EA. But it operates according to its own design, and, chiefly, retains ownership of any IP it creates.
Now that the team is in control of the games and brands, we can ensure that the fans are treated as well as they deserve.”
This is as direct an attack at Activision as you're going to find in the PR-friendly announcement release. West and Zampella have made several damning claims about their treatment at the hands of Activision. Their position now is that Infinity Ward's partnership with Activision is damaging for the Call iof Duty brand and, as result, to its fans.
Frank Gibeau, President of the EA Games Label: At EA, we're honored to be their partners and to give them the support they need to hire a team and return to making incredible games.”
EA's pledge to give Respawn the support they need” directly infers that under their previous owners they did not receive this. You can be sure that EA is relishing every moment of this announcement – and it wants Activision to feel every word.